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World Music CD Reviews Africa


By Robert Kaye
Published August 1, 2005

Label Bleu

Due to a childhood tragedy involving poisoned meat, Germain Randrianarisoa “Rajery” is today bereft of one hand. Determined and innately gifted, Rajery taught himself to play the valiha, a tubular harp comprised of a long bamboo stalk and bicycle brake cable strings. Today he is admired for being one of the most creative valiha players and a profoundly innovative icon of Madagascan music. With his competent quintet of forward-thinking musicians, Rajery creates heartfelt modern folk music that, while seemingly spry and unpretentious, contains much sophistication, in terms of both its lyrics and instrumental aptitude. “Toroy Lalana,” propelled by a growly five-string bass line and peppered by an oscillating accordion (in a major key), is actually a lament: “Protect me… I have been searching for so long… Your child has lost himself today…” It’s this contrast between the vocals and music that often defines the composite character of the album. The acappella “Mifankatiava” is a stirring call-response-anthem full of vigorous spirituality. Kudos too, to the recording/mastering engineers for capturing Rajery’s artistry.